A Dog's Way Home Review: A feel-good travelogue of a dog
Regardless of your familiarity with the film's content and its treatment, it's a film that will definitely make you reach for your tissues
In life, there are few things that are guaranteed to bring you joy. Dogs are among the top of many people's list. Writer W Bruce Cameron clearly gets this. His first book, A Dog's Purpose, based on the adventures of a reincarnated dog, was adapted to big screen two years back. While the official sequel to that film, A Dog's Journey, is scheduled to hit screens later this year, we now get an adaptation of another of Cameron's books, A Dog's Way Home.
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Jonah Hauer-King, Ashley Judd
Director: Charles Martin Smith
The story is about a pitbull mix called Bella, born in a dilapidated house wreck, who discovers her purpose: Being the pet of a human named Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King). He works at the VA hospital, where his mother Terri (Ashley Judd), a war veteran, gets therapy. But in the city of Denver, Colorado where they reside, it is illegal to raise a pitbull, and if caught by the Animal Control Services, the canine will be euthanised. With a heavy heart, Lucas sends Bella away till he can figure out a way to get her back in his life, only for Bella to break from this place to get back with her human. This travelogue is the story of A Dog's Way Home.
Bella is voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard, and is the only animal in the film who talks. The simple joys that are part of her first interactions with Lucas are everything that's beautiful about dog films. Everything Lucas tells her is a game for her. Get the ball, Stop, Don't chew the shoe, Go to work. Try not flashing a smile when the dog says that her chasing the squirrel is something that mom -- Terri -- doesn't get. Or when she mistakes someone mowing the lawn for a strange walking ritual. Or when she mistakes snow for ice-cream. These are parlour tricks, but when executed well, work just fine.
During the travails of Bella, we see the film push agendas: Fight against racism, good parenting, adoption, the therapeutic power of having a pet. All these work only on the surface though. This film is more child-friendly and has less depth than A Dog's Purpose. When you show the dark side of humans and try to contrast it with the sunshine of dogs, it has to be done with more intent.
Rest assured though that regardless of your familiarity with the film's content and its treatment, it's a film that will definitely make you reach for your tissues. The music features a cover of Bill Withers' Lean on Me that is perfect for both the moment it's used for, and for the film in totality. I can say with some confidence that it played a part in strengthening my dream of adopting a dog.